LeBron James is the underdog again? That’s the story as the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors series begins. The 2017 NBA Finals matchup was predictable for a lot of fans and analysts, as it will be the third-straight year that these two teams will face off for the title. It’s also the seventh-straight time that a team led by LeBron James has been crowned as the Eastern Conference champions. Now James and his teammates might have the most difficult final opponent of his NBA career.
A report by the Sporting News discussed the NBA Finals odds, including Game 1 predictions. The Warriors opened as seven-point favorites to win Game 1 at home over the Cavs. In fact, one of the oddsmakers has the Warriors listed as 7-to-1 favorites to sweep the entire series. Though a sweep is always possible in the NBA Playoffs, it seems unlikely to take place between two teams that seemed so evenly balanced over the last three years. The Warriors and Cavs each have a title to show for it, with this year serving as a tie-breaker for fans.
So why is LeBron James the underdog and why have the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers been picked by so many analysts and experts to lose this series to the Golden State Warriors? It really comes down to Kevin Durant. Durant signed as a free agent during the NBA offseason, walking away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in search of a championship ring. He missed a lot of time due to injury this season, but when he finally returned to the court, the Warriors became almost unbeatable. That includes a 12-0 mark through the Western Conference Playoffs.
— The Vertical (@TheVertical) May 26, 2017
Over his 14-year NBA career, LeBron James has already appeared in 212 playoff games. James has career averages of 28.3 points, 8.8 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.0 blocks in the postseason. In 13 playoff games this season, James has averaged 32.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists, 2.2 steals, and 1.4 blocks per game. He has clearly been the Most Valuable Player for the Cavs to this point but needs four more victories before the franchise can raise another championship trophy.
During the 2015 NBA Finals of the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors, LeBron James averaged 35.8 points, 13.3 rebounds, and 8.8 assists per game. The Cavs would end up losing that series in six games. Last year, in the 2016 NBA Finals, James averaged 29.7 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 8.9 assists as the Cavs beat the Warriors in seven games. The remarkable numbers that James has posted against the Warriors are expected to continue, but he definitely needs his teammates to step up in a big way for the Cavs to keep a winning pace.
The primary reason that the Cavs and James are considered underdogs in this series is how well the Warriors have been playing down the stretch. The Golden State Warriors are actually chasing history in this series, as no team has ever gone undefeated in the current playoff format. The team is 12-0 as the 2017 NBA Finals begins, with a shot at becoming the first team to ever finish at 16-0.
The closest teams to that mark were the 2000-01 Los Angeles Lakers (15-1), the 1982-83 Philadelphia 76ers (12-1), the 1990-91 Chicago Bulls (15-2), the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons (15-2), and the 1998-99 San Antonio Spurs (15-2). A sweep of the Cavaliers would push the Warriors to an unprecedented 16-0 in the postseason. If the Cavs pulled off a sweep, they would finish the 2017 NBA Playoffs with a 16-1 record, which could also arguably be the best of all time.
LeBron James is dominant, but these are not last year’s Warriors. https://t.co/AX8SwT13Jx
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 27, 2017
Game 1 of the Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors schedule is 6 p.m. PT on June 1. This delayed start to the series has given both teams a lot of time to rest and prepare, so fans aren’t going to accept excuses from either side. The first two games will be played in California before heading back to Ohio for Game 3 on June 7. The LeBron James underdog story will be discussed quite a bit before then, with the future NBA Hall of Fame forward now provided with an opportunity to cement his legacy and spot next to Michael Jordan in the record books.
[Featured Image by Elsa/Getty Images]